Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is a Union Territory (UT) of India, located in the country’s northern part between 32.17 and 37.6 North Latitude and 73.2 and 80.36 East Longitude in the Himalayan region. J&K has agro-climatic conditions best suited for horticulture and floriculture which is the mainstay of the rural economy, providing employment to a large number of local inhabitants. The Union Territory is blessed with immense natural beauty having ample natural resources including soil, water, climatic condition, diversity, topography, rich natural flora etc. which are conducive for the cultivation of a wide range of flowers. The Union Territory is considered as the paradise on the earth because of its natural glamour. The state has undergone many changes through the ages, influenced by the different kinds of cultures, religions, and rulers during various periods of history. It is this scenic beauty and bountiful nature that lured the Mughals and they were impressed by the beauty of the state and they established many gardens in the valley along with their main sites and journey routes. Beautiful gardens in the state are being enjoyed by tourists across the globe.
Floral Diversity of Kashmir Valley
J&K has a lot of scope for the floriculture industry as the state can produce quality flowers. It has been observed that flowers have high demand within and outside of the state. We have good soil and weather conditions in the state which are conducive for the growth of flowers. All these factors indicate that there is immense scope of floriculture in J& K. Now the farmers are becoming aware of this rising industry in the state. If we look at our economy, our agriculture, horticulture, and floriculture have attracted the attention of big investors. For commercial floriculture, farmers need quality planting material and improved/hybrid varieties of seeds. Kashmir along with a few other areas with pleasant climate provides a prospect to promote crops which otherwise cannot be cultivated in plains. Thus, the climatic conditions of Kashmir possess exclusivity for the cultivation of certain floriculture crops. Particularly, some bulbous crops like Gladioli and Lilium not only grow exclusively in Kashmir with both standard size cut-flowers and the bulbs for multiplication but bloom at a different time other than plains. More interestingly if explored properly with a scientific approach within the valley a further delayed bloom and bulb harvesting of Lilium can be achieved in high altitude areas, especially Gulmarg, thus enjoying a monopoly in the market.
The medicinal and aromatic plant cultivation, propagation, and extraction of essential oils is another exclusive and vital area where Kashmir floriculture industry can create an important place in the national and international floriculture market. Rose (particularly Rosa damascene), Lavender, Rosemary, and several other crops are important crops which can be and are easily cultivated even on wastelands and provide a unique opportunity for us to increase our share of domestic and export market of floriculture. The establishment of modern nurseries for propagating floriculture material is a value-adding effort, and here the climatic and uniqueness factor can also play a vital role. There are huge opportunities that if taped properly and scientifically will make Kashmir a unique floriculture hub. The motivation of farmers and providing them incentives will strengthen this sector in a big way. With the strenuous efforts of Government organizations, awareness on the floriculture industry has been created among the farmers and some farmers especially from the young generation are showing keen interest in floriculture. A good number of progressive farmers in almost all the districts of the state have been trading flowers in the local and outside markets. In 1990, the area under floriculture in J&K was only 80 ha and now it has increased more than 353 ha with an annual turnover of about 20 Crores. Floriculture has blossomed into commercial activity with considerable growth and a useful crop diversification option particularly for the small farmers over the past three decades.
Commercial floriculture is a lucrative business and thus can enhance the income of the farmers of the state. Both the agricultural universities in the state (SKUAST-J and SKUAST-K) and State Department of Floriculture provide technical assistance to the floriculture farmers and impart training to start entrepreneurship in floriculture. Technical guidelines on cut flowers, seeds, bulbs, and ornamental plants, the introduction of new technologies like high-tech poly structures etc. are provided to the farmers by these organizations. These organizations also demonstrate some advanced floriculture farms to the farmers through exposure visits
The National Horticulture Board under the Ministry of Agriculture has introduced many new schemes to encourage the floriculture industry. There is a need to promote cold storage facilities for the floriculture industry. For high quality of floriculture, we primarily need the high-quality plants which can give quality flowers. For this purpose, we need to develop quality nurseries in the villages which will help to create employment in the rural areas. Market is another aspect in the floriculture industry. The trade of flowers and their products are increasing annually. If we look at the potential of the floriculture industry in the state, it can be said that there is a need for skilled and unskilled persons right from planting the plants, plucking the flowers, their storage and their transportation in different local, national, and international markets so that ultimately flowers can be reached to the consumers. The process involved in the floriculture industry requires the latest technologies. For this purpose, the farmers who are interested to flourish this industry should be trained and necessary infrastructure facilities should be provided to them. Looking at the scope of the floriculture industry, special trainings are imparted at the village level by the Government organizations which help the farmers to start the floriculture projects. These kinds of projects will create employment for the rural people and ultimately the economic status of the farmers can be improved.
Written by Reyaz Ahmad Bhat and Bazilla Mushtaq
Division of Floriculture and Landscape Architecture, Faculty of Horticulture
SKUAST-K, Shalimar Campus, Srinagar 190025, Jammu and Kashmir, India